Hi Anchorspace members, potential members, local community members, and those interested in this shared workspace,

When we opened in April 1, 2015, no one quite knew what we were. And we were still figuring it out ourselves too.

But our community was with us. Close to 150 people came to our launch party and businesses, non-profits, and individuals in the community have since sent us customers, donated supplies, and attended events. And we are so grateful for all of it.

It’s taken a long time to educate people about what a shared workspace is (supportive community, sharing of resources) and what a shared workspace is not (private offices, long term leases). But we have successfully been educating our community and are getting better all the time.

The market has since caught up with us and we’ve seen a 300% increase in business this year because of it. Like any new business, we did some things right and some things wrong. (OK, lots of things wrong. But that’s part of learning, isn’t it? Making mistakes and constantly improving.)

Since we opened, we have also made some moves to better serve our members and, in doing so, improved our bottom line. We’ve diversified our membership levels and offerings to support more businesses in the community. We’ve added services for members like on-site snacks and professional development opportunities. And when people ask us for something, we try to do it.

Above all, we’ve tried to be open and transparent. We have clear pricing. We have maintained 9-5 Monday through Friday office hours except for holidays for 2.5 years consistently. We have opened at 5:30 AM and closed at 11:30 PM when people needed us. We will gladly give a tour during any of our open hours and have a conversation with anyone who walks through the door and wants to see “what’s up here.”

Not What It Seems

Part of running a business is giving the impression that everything is going great all the time – at least that’s what I thought. However, that conflicts with our desire to be open and transparent, so it is with this and encouragement from some fellow coworking space owners I write this today.

Anchorspace did not become profitable until July and August of this year (yay tourism) and since then, we have operated at a $300-$400/month loss.

I have always said I can outwork anyone. But there comes a time in your life where your body, your mind, your spirit won’t allow eighty or more hour weeks anymore. And so until now, I have absorbed this loss, working extra jobs, finding sponsoring partners, and holding small revenue generating events to keep the loss to a minimum. I’ve dipped into my savings, I’ve called in favors. I’ve bootstrapped to get what is needed.

I guess I could have just closed the doors when our lease comes up in April and say ‘Thanks for all the memories’ but that seems too… untransparent for us.

We Need Your Help

We need your support. And honestly, not even a lot of it, to stay open.

You may think to yourself, “Why should I support this workspace? I don’t need it.” Or “My internet is fine at home.” Or “I work for someone else already, I’m not starting a business.”

It doesn’t take much effort to look around our society and see that when we take care of other people, everything just works better.

We also see the reality of the economy: that according to Forbes, close to 50% of American workers will be subcontractors by 2020. That most of us are working multiple jobs. That in a society of screens and where loneliness could be as big a health risk factor as smoking and obesity, we need community now more than ever.

Maybe I need to tell you a bit about some of the people that do need this space.

The People Of Anchorspace (AKA The Reasons To Help)

When I met Jill Lee, an insanely talented graphic designer, I knew she could be successful. So I hired her to make some cool notecards for my clients. Some of them still talk about those cards! I introduced her to my small business counselor, to potential clients, and tried to help her in any way I could. This summer, she fully funded the publication of her first children’s book through Kickstarter and is looking to use her new publishing company to distribute the ideas and stories of populations who aren’t typically represented in the publishing world. She is kicking butt and taking names… and all she needed was space for her creations and a few people encouraging her. (She was recently even featured in the Ellsworth American.)

There’s also Jeb, a supersmart guy, an accountant who is both great at numbers and conversation (he has a second job as a bartender). I encouraged him to join the business group I am in, and he served as president for a year. We look over each others’ proposals. He’s answered my Quickbooks questions and I answered his Facebook questions. Since being in Anchorspace, he’s more than doubled his business and helps lots of local people, in particular those in the food industry, with their taxes and bookkeeping. His straightforward billing and willingness to educate have created a niche and made his customers loyal. He recently held our most well attended professional development workshop we’ve had to date.

I am not sure you can tell but I am so proud of these people who saw a need and filled it. Who wanted to make this island their home and instead of complaining about the lack of jobs and opportunities have made their own. Who have lifted up other people as they’ve become more successful.

These are just two Anchorspace members. There’s Nina and Antoinette and Kendra and Kaitlin and Elise and Mike. There’s Jeff and Jena and John and Jane and Adrien. They all have stories of their businesses and work that are interesting and they all needed (or wanted) some support and community to do what they wanted to do. They make their home in our communities right here on MDI. They pay taxes. They are doulas, healers, lawyers, artists, financial planners, restaurant owners, non-profit directors, designers, and software developers. Anchorspace members are the individuals keeping our local economy year round and diverse while building their dreams. They deserve our support and it doesn’t cost much more for them to succeed than encouragement, marketing, networking, and a few customers.

Serving The Tourists, Like We All Do

In addition to our regulars, there are about 100 people who were able to extend their Maine trip by a day or more because they found a space they could duck into and work a few hours. We helped them set up webinars or use Google Hangout for the first time or get their documents scanned and sent to their lawyer. It’s hard to put a number value on this but I don’t think it would be a stretch to say making it easier for people to stay in touch with their work lives at home allows them to vacation longer and more flexibly, adding to our overall local economy.

Anchorspace has hosted job interviews, meetings, meditation workshops, cooking classes, art shows, launch parties, and other events.

Being infinitely close to Success

We have more members than we’ve ever had and are doing more things than we ever thought possible.

To be short by a few hundred bucks a month feels like something that could easily change – or continue to discourage me. 

Now we don’t want you to give us money and not get anything for it. Here are three ways I am asking you to support Anchorspace:

  1. Become A Supporting Community Member
    For $19/month you can come to our monthly workshop; upcoming ones include SEO For Your Small Business, Public Speaking 101 (Not That Class You Took In College), and Yes And: Improv And Your Business.
    For $19/month you’ll have access to the live workshop (which we broadcast for virtual attendees) and the recording, a monthly happy hour, a link from our website to yours with a bio, and space to put your marketing materials in Anchorspace so we can not only tell everyone how fabulous you are but show them when they come in for an event, a meeting, or a tour.
    Our workshops alone are $25/person so but just agreeing to monthly support, you are saving yourself about 25% off the sticker price! Make it $39/month and you can get one Anchorspace workday a month! That’s 33% off our day rate. We have people use their monthly Anchorspace workday to upload large files, troubleshoot issues they are having in their business with our members, or simply get out of their home office for sanity reasons. Click here for more info on these memberships
  2. Recruit A Member
    If you have a friend complaining about running things from their kitchen table or being displaced from their “office” when they have houseguests, tell them about Anchorspace. Oddly enough ‘people annoyed at their children, animals, and housework trying to get their work done’ is not a filter we can make in a Facebook ad. ‘People building empires wanting to make their home on MDI’ is not something we can Google. So help us out by telling the people we don’t know yet about us. If they work here for the day and like it enough to become a member, we’ll apply their day rate toward a membership. 
  3. Help Us Find A New Home
    Some of you know the building that houses Anchorspace is currently for sale. Our lease is through April 2018 so we went to be proactive and explore our options in case the new building owner has other plans. If you know of some under utilized real estate, a philanthropist who wants to encourage economic development, or a business or non-profit with excess space looking for income, please connect us. If we can lower our costs, we can find that $400/month  in savings versus revenue.

Room for Growth

Let me get something straight – my goal is to keep Anchorspace not only open but growing. We have more types of businesses we want to serve and we have more types of community support we want to be able to do. Exciting ideas may include popup shops, rentable commercial kitchen, recording space, business incubator program, and more. A flexible, affordable, and innovative space that supports businesses in our community is good for all of us.

On a personal note, Anchorspace, despite its costs,  has given me more than I could have ever thought. I joke with people that I could have spent this amount of money getting my MBA but honestly, I think seeing a dozen businesses or so launched and growing is worth more to me than that diploma would be. Our members have become some of my best friends, customers (not just for me but for other members), and fun coworkers I get to spend the day with. Some people have even fallen in love here.

I think you get from this letter, whether you know me personally or not, that I think this work is really important, in particular for our community. And if you have any ideas of how I can do this better, please reach out and let’s talk. I’m open to all possibilities right now, so long as we can continue supporting businesses starting and growing in this community, I am all in.

Thanks and happiest of holidays to you and yours,
Nicole Ouellette
Founder of Anchorspace